Now despite having a PM who loves tree-killing coal so much he brought a lump of it to parliament, Australia isn’t doing too badly on the renewable power front as more people are getting into things like wind and rooftop solar power sources.
But while the shift towards solar is a positive step forward in combating the negative effects of climate change, the rise in adopting this sunlight sucking power source has resulted in a problem that we’ve somewhat neglected to take into account in our eagerness to save the planet: The mountain of hazardous waste solar panels will generate.
Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Solar panels generally last about 20 years while the lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries used to store solar power at nighttime last between five to 15 years, and the inevitable replacing of said solar panels and batteries will cause an avalanche of hazardous waste that Australia isn’t quite ready to handle.
According to research by The Conversation, battery waste will become a big problem in 2025 and the amount of waste from retired solar panels in Australia by 2050 is projected to reach 1,500 kilotonnes.
Now there ways to recycle solar panels and batteries in a safe way that not only prevents environmental and human hard but also provides us with valuable resources for reuse.
But Australia being Australia, we’re struggling to recycle simple waste like cardboard and plastic, let alone solar panels and batteries. Our current solution of “dumping it onto others to sort out” also won’t fly anymore since China has stopped taking our rubbish in and told us to figure out the problem ourselves.
This is quite worrying because if we can’t even get the names of our native animals right, how on earth can we be trusted to figure out this solar panel and battery waste problem on our own?
South Australia and the ACT have taken steps to address this inevitable solar power waste problem by banning certain e-waste categories from being thrown in landfill but the conclusion from The Conversation is that Australia has quite a ways to go still.
But hey, battery waste may be the least of our worries in 2050 since that’s when the end of human civilisation is predicted to occur so there’s also that to look forward to.